Be donor-centric. Meet your donors’ needs. Provide clear, consistent and transparent messaging.
As fund development professionals we try to do all those things but sometimes the basics of the wisdom don’t translate as easily from theory to reality. Life can get messy – really messy. Case in point: The American Red Cross. I’m reading a fascinating chapter in Roy Spence’s book It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For. Roy summarizes how his team worked with the American Red Cross to drill down and identify the organization’s mission and marketing strategy from a donor’s point of view:
Purpose of American Red Cross:
“Empowering people in America to perform extraordinary acts in the face of emergency situations.”
Core Positioning Message:
“Be part of a life-changing experience. When emergency strikes, lives can suddenly take a different path. When you rise to meet the challenge, everyone’s life begins changing for the better.” (pp. 248-249)
This case study shows how the American Red Cross transforms ordinary joes, like you and me, into extraordinary heroes by offering their donors and volunteers the opportunity to demonstrate their humanity by either participating or financially supporting their services and fundraising opportunities. The key word is TRANSFORM. It’s not about your organization or your team and the successes are only due in part to your staff; the accolades belong to your donors and volunteers and they need to be told exactly how they are transforming the world.
What attracts your donors?
The basis for your donor communication strategy should be an understanding of what attracts your donors to your organization in the first place. This might take a little sleuthing on your part if you don’t already know but fortunately if you ask them they will probably tell you and appreciate that you asked. “By recognizing how your organization is uniquely suited to fulfill deep-seated needs of your members, you can begin to develop relationships with them that are much more rewarding for everyone involved” (p 251).
Take a moment to contemplate how and why your donors and volunteers have invested their time and money in your organization and, therefore, improved the world. How exactly did their participation facilitate change and transformation? When you thanked them profusely, did your messaging transform them into Everyday Heroes? The goal is to do that in every piece of donor communication including the website, the newsletter, the thank you letter, gift-at-work reports and the annual report. Use stories to demonstrate the impact of their heroics. Stories are interesting and memorable, statistics are not so save them for your T3010 where they count.
Your donors and volunteers are your organization’s best ambassadors and if you make them understand how they impact the world, they will remember those amazing stories and share them with family, friends and neighbours a lot faster than you can upload a YouTube video that you hope will go viral but never does.
Our world is a challenging and complex place and we need Everyday Heroes. The trouble is, sometimes they don’t understand how important they are because we haven’t explained it to them in their terms. People respond to hearing about the difference they’ve made to the issues that matter to them. Our world needs the good work that our organizations are doing and, in turn, we need our donors and volunteers to transform the world with us.
It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For: Why Every Extraordinary Business Is Driven By Purpose by Roy M. Spence, Jr.
Excellence in Fundraising in Canada; Editor: Guy Mallabone; Contributor: Andrea McManus, CFRE
Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie
Intentional Stewardship: Bringing Your Donors to Their Highest Level of Philanthropy by Julia Emlen
Strategic Fund Development by Simone Joyaux
Thanks! A Guide to Donor-Centred Fundraising by Penelope Burk